The Hero Chronicles: Babes Who Slay
- What is it that makes a leading lady so awesome, so epic, that readers and her oh-so-lucky leading man (or men, in some instances) just can’t get enough of her?
- What makes a PNR/UF heroine better than heroines in other genres?
- What is it that makes our favorites a cut above?
They gots it. These ladies are definitely not cardboard cut outs, shrinking violets, or carb-counting ninnies. When confronted with some kind of seemingly insurmountable obstacle, do they shriek and run in terror? Well, maybe… but they’ll do it with style and panache. (Smart girls know when to run y’all.) These women have got what it takes to make legions of fans everywhere want to root for them from the sidelines and jump into the fray. You want to hang with these chicks, get manicures, play poker, dish on the awesomeness that is sex with a man who has all that paranormal goodness wrapped up in a pack— uh, ahem—box—no,no, that’s naughty too . . . hmmm . . body we would love to explore. But since we can’t, we’ll settle for the play by play.
(And what we do later, at home, when we’re all alone (or not), is nobody’s business.)
For fans of the short-lived show Firefly and movie Serenity, which was based on the show, Zoe Washburne is a very recognizable face as heroine extraordinaire. Beautiful, tough, and principled, she was Captain Mal’s right hand woman, devoted wife of her goofball pilot husband Wash, and one hell of a woman to have on your side in a firefight. She kicked ass with the best of them, with or without firearms.
What is a girl to do when confronted by a crazed flesh eating zombie? Rogue nasty vampire? Free-floating giant jellyfish that consumes neighborhood cats?* Some of my favorite answers have included flame throwers, swords, stakes, shovels, Jeeps, and hair products. (Yo, some of that crap we put on our heads is highly flammable.)
There’s also that problem that happens when you’ve been kidnapped (gasp!) or your leading man is in some serious trouble and you’ve got to bust him out, but everyone else is way more powerful than you and, oh no!, they’ve also stolen all the chocolate! Leading ladies of PNR and UF don’t let these things stop them. Oh no, sister. They run in there guns blazing, magic flying, hair rippling in the wind, cleavage heaving, and kick some monster ass. It might involve a fork lift, or a true Mac Guyver moment where a trap is constructed from pantyhose, gum, mascara, and a pair of stilettos, but those bad guys are going down. Down, down, till there is nothing left but a greasy stain and some serious Smex Beam action to celebrate the win for Team Us Not Them.
Can Do Attitude:
They don’t stand around waiting to be told what to do, how to do it, or when. They take action — sometimes the wrong action, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Sometimes horribly right, but never predictably. If half the world engaged in the mind set that they were not going to let their period and insurmountable odds beat them, we’d have cured lactose intolerance and the fat content of chocolate already. (Who doesn’t want to be able to eat absurd amounts of deliciousness without weight gain or gas? If you answer “me” you’re lying. In fact, I think I need a break for some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. . . .)
***** crinkle, crinkle, munch, munch. Aaaahhh. . . . . . ******
Crisis averted. I was reaching Chocolate Withdrawal Defcon Level 8 there. Whew.
Why Sookie? Well, if you’ve read the books or seen the show, you know how much trouble she gets into by running headlong into danger to save her friends or even strangers. Sookie firmly believes in giving it the old college try, even when the odds are definitely stacked against her and her little blonde self. It’s landed her in the hospital more than once and also in the arms of some really delicious men. Go Sook!
Smarts and a Heart:
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I definitely do not want to read about a heroine who continuously gets herself into trouble because she is stupid, vapid, or completely selfish. In other words, I have to like her. Yeah, sometimes they screw up and date the wrong guy, maybe mess with magic they can’t control and cause a death-by-sex orgy, end up getting captured and tortured cause they ran full steam ahead without back-up, or decide to be stubborn in a situation that obviously calls for some finesse and compromise. But that is what makes them seem more human and relateable. She also can’t be such a hardass that when things go south she’s not affected. Emotions are important, otherwise we’re reading stories about androids. I don’t know about you, but robots freak me out.
Smex Beam Deployment:
Ahh the Smex Beam, our gift from the Goddess of Erotica. When my favorite ladies start getting down and dirty with their alpha males, I am a full-on complete and total voyeur. Even bad sex is better than no sex. And a heroine in these genres has got to know how to turn her man into a lathered up, panting, jelly-fied mess because he is so turned on by her he can barely control himself. A great heroine can get her man to drop trow no matter where he is because she has the magic of sexual tension and desire on her side. It doesn’t matter if she isn’t the hottest chick on the planet. (In fact, might be better if she isn’t. I’m not all that fond of the Hollywood stereotype myself.) To her hero, she is the pinnacle of everything that presses his buttons and brings him to complete and total ‘attention’. 😉
I know, it’s a little bit obvious. Buffy. But think about it. She’s a gorgeous girl thrust into life or death fights all the time, has a forbidden love that nearly destroys the world, and always manages to come out on top. Add in her loyal Scoobies, a ridiculously hot Watcher, snappy, sharp dialogue, and what have you got? A fan following that is still in love 8 years after the show left the air.
Now, I’m not a diva. In fact, What Not To Wear should probably be pulling up outside my house any minute now. (Please God, send them. How many t-shirts is it really legal to own?) A good heroine knows when she should be wearing jeans and when she should be wearing a sexy black dress. Either one can be used in combat. One helps strap on and hide weapons, the other IS a weapon. From stilettos that are actually stakes to use against nasty vamps trying to latch on for an artery party** to the special leather harnesses that hold machetes and short swords in the world of Anita Blake, the wardrobe can be just as important in the arsenal as the actual weapons. In fact, underwear (or the lack thereof) is often used to either A) catch bad guys by reeling them in, B) a source of comic relief and embarrassment, C) cause for speculation among us ladies — we all want to know what the males have got on, or don’t as the case may deliciously be or D) all of the above.
So, when we talk about the anatomy of a great heroine, we have a chick that is smart, funny, and knows how to rig up traps and thwart bad guys using only her wits and maybe her underwear. She can save her hero when need be but will ask for help to avoid being nothing more than a Big Bad’s midnight snack, gets her sizzle on in the Smex Beam whenever/wherever she can, and uses her clothes as a double edged sword. Whew! It’s a tall order! And that’s why we love them so much. PNR/UF fans are a demanding lot. Methinks it has made the world of publishing a better, sexier place for women. A place where a female lead is not relegated to following the hero around like a puppy in need of constant reassurance and care. A place where we as readers can say “I’d love to buy this girl a beer and hang out, ask her how she did x,y, and z.” Heroines are a driving force in the plot and in many ways give women something aspire to.
Especially the amazing super human sex.
*If you’d like to know more about the jelly fish, check out Ilona Andrew’s short story Magic Grieves in the Magic Graves anthology.
**This is a reference to Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, Book 1 Halfway to the Grave. Bones has always got a funny rejoinder to share. Let’s hear it for one of my favorite alpha males!
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